Koval (copy)

The Madison Police Department is scheduled to provide a formal response to OIR Groups report and recommendations by Jan. 31.

JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL

Were the city to adopt police body cameras, specific policies detailing the expectations and requirements would need to be in place first, according to the group tasked with studying practices within the Madison Police Department.

The report from OIR Group, a California-based consulting firm, didn’t provide specific recommendations on body cameras or staffing — another hot-button topic relating to the police department — but members of the committee reviewing police department practices, and City Council members alike, said the report was thorough and worth the $372,000.

The report, which was released last month, was presented Thursday and met with questions from City Council members and members of the Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee at a joint meeting. Questions related to the department’s command structure, the use of police officers in schools, data collection and more.

The possible use of body cameras has been a contentious topic in city government for several years, but principal Michael Gennaco said that OIR wouldn’t provide concrete recommendations without the community, police department and city officials forming and adopting a set of policies related to their use.

“It’s a difficult decision,” Gennaco said. “There are a lot of moving parts.”

Policies would range from how the department would use the footage to when the footage would released to the public. Gennaco said a pilot program with body cameras could be useful, but only if those policies are already in place.

Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee Luis Yudice said he didn’t think the report’s response on the questions relating to body cameras was too vague or unhelpful to the committee.

“With body cameras, the bottom line is out there in terms of pros and cons,” Yudice said.

OIR wasn’t asked to conduct a staffing study, but council and committee members sought recommendations based on the group’s expertise. Gennaco said data relating to community policing would be needed to make an informed recommendation.

Problem-solving, de-escalation and community engagement — which Police Chief Mike Koval and the City Council have said they want to increase — require more time than traditional emergency response and would thus require more officers, but the department does not collect records relating to those practices.

“Officers are doing a lot of good things, but only part of their law enforcement duties are captured,” Yudice said. “I think that it’s unfortunate.”

To bolster data that can be reviewed in staffing discussions, OIR recommended requiring daily work logs for officers to detail their own work related to nontraditional practices.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Creating an independent auditor position.
  • Engaging the community in strategic plans, staffing assignments and selection of police chiefs.
  • Enacting a formal review process of officers and leadership.
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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.